How is the issue of censorship dealt with in the dystopian society of Brave New World?

In the dystopian society of Brave New World, censorship is achieved largely by indoctrinating the population to be content with their lot and educating them in such a way that they are unaware that subversive books and ideas even exist.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, the vast majority of censorship is achieved almost incidentally, as a by-product of indoctrination. Shakespeare, for instance, is banned, but there is generally no need for the state to go round burning illicit copies of his works, as in Fahrenheit 451. Instead, the world state indoctrinates everyone to be contented with their lot and simply does not make copies of any subversive literature available. Dr. Gaffney, the Provost of Eton, explains that at this elite school, the library contains no books except reference books (which, presumably, contain nothing unorthodox, and certainly no reference to Shakespeare).

Mustapha Mond, the World Controller, is unusual in being familiar with the works of Shakespeare and other banned books and able to discuss and evaluate the ideas they contain. Ordinary citizens, even if they are members of the Alpha Plus caste, simply have no idea that such books and ideas exist, and most of them would be uninterested if they did know.

Huxley's dystopian vision differs from most others in engineering desire and satisfaction to the point where coercion is seldom necessary. Most people are so successfully indoctrinated and consequently so incurious that they would reject any subversive literature even if they were to encounter it, which they never do.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Censorship plays a very important part in a totalitarian state. The state doesn't want people to think for themselves; it wants to keep them in a state of subjection and do as they're told. To make it easier to control people, the state controls what they read. Anything that smacks of subversion or has the potential to give people ideas about changing the government is deemed unacceptable.

In Brave New World, books and other written materials are subject to rigorous censorship for much the same reason, but with an added twist; it's not just the content of written material that's considered dangerous, but its potential consequences.

It's possible to imagine that, in some totalitarian states, a well-written, well-argued scientific paper would be allowed to be published. But in the World State, the Controller deems such a piece unfit for publication because he doesn't know where its conclusions might lead. Even though he readily concedes that the paper in question is "masterly," he still won't allow it to be published, because it could potentially undermine the stability of society. He doesn't know precisely how, but he's not prepared to take any chances.

Other books, such as the Bible and volumes of poetry, are locked away inside the Controller's safe. These are forbidden books, literature deemed unacceptable by the authorities because they offer people an alternative world to that in which they live, the drug-fueled, hedonistic existence laid out for them by the government.

The reasons behind censorship are much easier to detect here than in the case with scientific papers. However, the overriding purpose of all forms of censorship in the World State is the same: to maintain the overall stability of society.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial